Vn8}nìm $_b;\86IO%J7|Mܴ+) gًd^"J|I&cڿ(\n,!K$, ϗ)г [5+@$en6uwY*i*ͻEN kH:ZpADfv:RPטR s! Y}69ӕ38!_~v4}U|iXէiB.b*"Jo.(Yl6<[KxP06Қ/w>_>"fHX7, cj |QĚp?B{LIP)ф/6b;NʏW`?Bp#'\@P>e>-\ I*Fg\ 4:2|blzpzl}Zxq9Ol 8O/|F8m#ʽ@μ[0N}IR#F ۞[K<,5S.FΩ=?5/cH ̀U,XYqxBrCm@Lݢ9cUԇDj[4rlwcƱȉc>ZK;=m4]ѕ M6D3%xg]ga+eq:~L3~%,%!!Vx&~OHHB66rC 醿eu8a{?{' SE+BZPE(Rr7v:L>J6ڎV6as /'@ Oÿ D9 ^uڶ}?mq51e)1X sitvRia:e== YΡZ/íQEH$'/YyLGHÿ/W5he/U\6-m*N1AȀE/'2Ȧ喫ZU*׍G)lG<ᚥsILݬT.>vӿ**em7*}Y~m7yY+eIrc"kdi82:{cV07IR VvYz= ;;O%=Ce眊V?f9c9$3"$Ir|W<WDYZoX: =„neZ|\e2WۘZ[cu)Bk*Zi>ۑ&Zo]WⶮMP>?#Qij#֬tGA`8ݹt4ucSq#p

Soapbox: About the Industry

Go Ahead, Hit Me!

by Sandy Antunes
Aug 06,2004

 

Go Ahead, Hit Me!

Sometimes you wanna wack someone with a sword. There's a whole game genre, 'boffer larp', about taking the heart of many RPGS -- combat -- and doing it live, for real. Well, rarely 'with steel' and 'to the death', but taking a foam sword and hacking the pudding out of another person can be a great way of saying "Let's Play".

But, of course, boffer larp is also a game design nightmare. The short analysis of current boffer larps is:

  1. Most boffer combat is too rules- and number-heavy,
  2. Most boffer combat isn't realistic nor a simulation, but an analogy of combat,
  3. Game culture often makes it hard for newcomers,
  4. Too many players adopt an "I'm skilled, you were just lucky" attitude,
  5. Experience systems can make entrenched players game-killers,
  6. You need gear,
  7. But when done right, the physical immersion of boffer can be amazing.
Don't laugh at this, but actually hitting someone in many boffer larps is... too cerebral. I've only done under a dozen boffer systems (including writing/running one), but here's my comments.

I think combat and other game mechanics need to be as invisible and natural as possible. For example, if you're playing a plumber and have to fix a pipe, you could:

  1. pick up tools and fix a pipe
  2. play a computer game of 'Pipes'
  3. roll dice
  4. repair a TV and pretend it's a pipe

These appeal to me in the exact order above, best to worst. Obviously, 'a' is the most realistic, 'b' is a good simulation, 'c' is interruptive, and 'd' is analogous.

Similarly, I find boffer combat to be an analogy of combat, rather than realistic or simulated. There's too much numbers, thinking, and artificial rules. It ends up being more of a physical+cerebral sport, than 'fighting'.

(Note my background, epee, i.e. the only fencing branch that is basically rules-free, 'whomever hits first wins', largely because I had a hard time handling the excess rules of foil or sabre.)

Stephen Balzac touched on something similar with:
> That means that if someone drops their guard and leaves their face open,
> I'll hit before I've even consciously thought about it.

Adding lots of rules-- either number crunching in real time, or necessary US safety issues like 'no head shots', etc really makes it tough for me. Plus I'm bad at math, so boffer systems with built in math (i.e. hit points) are difficult.

Also, each boffer group has different policies on things like calibration (pulling blows), etc. So shifting to a new system means unlearning _reflexes_, which is a lot harder than learning new rules.

The SCA has a good combat system, because it's natural and encourages realistic things like head shots, and the few rules are also physically reasonable. It's not ideal, but the SCA is a good minimum standard to aim to.

Also, most groups (or dominant subgroups within the group) have a 'tude, and this really can turn away newcomers. This is an area many SCA chapters have in spades. In another boffer larp, I was slain because someone one broke rules (ignored blows, made up stuff) and, because I was new to the rules, I didn't know better. The attitude of the refs+others was, 'oh, he is like that'. So they failed the 'make the game accessible to newcomers' test.

Another problem with attitude is more endemic, it's the "I am skilled, you are lucky" attitude. In one boffer group, I had to undergo a condescending "lets test you out" where every blow that hit me was 'learn from this' and every blow I hit was 'lucky'.

In games with experience systems, newcomers are basically doomed-- not only are they unfamiliar with the nuances of the system, but they are greatly underpowered (MMORPG syndrome). So they can't enjoy things. (The corrolary: that even with longer play, you still aren't more powerful, has its own game problems, but that's beyond the scope of this screed). You walk in with your sword and find out every other person has magic armor, dual weapons, and enough hit points for God. Gee, fun.

Finally, you need good gear. A lot of boffer larps nail this one right by providing weapons, hooray!

Now, in a few events I've been in, they've gotten enough right that it was a blast. There weren't too many rules or numbers for us 'bad at math/poor memory' types to keep in our heads. They were encouraging to newcomers. The other players had a realistic and mature attitude about things. Gear was provided (a plus!) Experience was in the mechanics but close-scaled enough that it only provided an edge, not a game-killer against newcomers.

It can be done 'right', but it's really tough-- and there's no guaranteeing that what appeals to me, or another newcomer, is what appeals to everyone. Some groups live for the power-up scheme. Others like the complex systems. But if you want a newcomer-friendly system, there you have it.

In the end, boffer is a sport as well as a game. I guess the short version is, if I'm going to physically fight, I want to physically fight. I don't want to be doing numbers in my head while dancing to a specific rules set, or be faced with a local culture that isn't encouraging to the newcomer or diletante. I want the physical immersion of being in combat, and I want my success or failure to flow from the game and everyone's performance, not from external things like rules or cliques.

Funny thing about that last bit, it's what I want from life too (fairness and meritocracy), and I don't always get that. So take this all with a grain of salt.

Until next month,
Sandy
sandy@rpg.net
freelance TQo0~^DҒt< ek&Ǿ$\۵ZFȃuwݝIŃU QYir2HR2.u3MFoعq]4#A`pP5(b& )b)ⰾp7(i<[-2gL#5[f g?*rVGf8*)s'+20ϟ̑F}KB<7wSL\gbvm9WiRބYŜvd y0'p2I_Fc2>#o A )VL[Qk?3`)<У[(*W.JH ?tXCt谙 X:@ \0w ~LqĤE-rFkYœj4q 5AQ6[AxG [>w|?( fХθY䝛$c=_qNĦoǸ>O_|&/_Mi7"宥CЧk0dӷLh;TmuCGU-!Ul{ h<\bQX.~"O2*yPcz!ŠGg

What do you think?

Go to forum!\n"; $file = "http://www.rpg.net/$subdir/list2.php?f=$num"; if (readfile($file) == 0) { echo "(0 messages so far)
"; } ?>

All Soapboxes

  • See What Sticks by Sandy Antunes, 06jan06
  • Simple Gifts for Pre-Gamers by Sandy Antunes, 09dec05
  • Col vs Blog by Sandy Antunes, 04nov05
  • Running a First RPG for Kids by Sandy Antunes, 07oct05
  • Making It Pay by Sandy Antunes, 02sep05
  • The Hazards of Non-Combat Gaming by Sandy Antunes, 05aug05
  • Just-in-Time Pre-order Hell by Sandy Antunes, 01jul05
  • Cassandra's Industry Report by Sandy Antunes, 03jun05
  • Fiction or Non-Fiction by Sandy Antunes, 05may05
  • I am not a Storyteller by Sandy Antunes, 08apr05
  • A Better Job by Sandy Antunes, 01apr05
  • Advice For Working Writers by Sandy Antunes, 04mar05
  • Startup Fever by Sandy Antunes, 04feb05
  • Why Blogging is Lame by Sandy Antunes, 07jan05
  • Being a Pro Writer by Sandy Antunes, 10dec04
  • Viral Marketing Invitational by Sandy Antunes, 05nov04
  • The 24 Hour RPG Challenge by Sandy Antunes, 08oct04
  • A Decade of Distilled Advice by Sandy Antunes, 03sep04
  • Go Ahead, Hit Me! by Sandy Antunes, 06aug04
  • Promoting Yourself by Sandy Antunes, 09jul04
  • 10 Hurdles to Selling Your Game by Sandy Antunes, 11jun04
  • Let's Team Up! by Sandy Antunes, 07may04
  • Beyond Role and Pla(t)y(pus) by Sandy Antunes, 08apr04
  • Slow Improv and the Post-Kilgallon by Sandy Antunes, 05mar04
  • Paradox Redux by Sandy Antunes, 06feb04
  • Mad Scientists and the Kilgallon Paradox by Sandy Antunes, 09jan04
  • It's Not Your World, It's Mine by Sandy Antunes, 05dec03
  • Murphy's Law for Adventure Writers by Sandy Antunes, 07nov03
  • Eigentesting by Sandy Antunes, 09oct03
  • Atomic by Sandy Antunes, 05sep03
  • Is Writing a Commodity? by Sandy Antunes, 06aug03
  • Designing Amidst the Tides of Gaming History by Sandy Antunes, 08jul03
  • Buy This Book by Sandy Antunes, 05jun03
  • Hobbies by Sandy Antunes, 08may03
  • The Websites That Wouldn't Die by Sandy Antunes, 10apr03
  • The Path to Atrocities by Sandy Antunes, 06mar03
  • Cattle Mutilation: The Game Design by Sandy Antunes, 06feb03
  • Gaming With Children by Sandy Antunes, 09jan03
  • How To Be An Industry Poser, Part 1 by Sandy Antunes, 05dec02
  • all i game with, i learned from kids books by Sandy Antunes, 19nov02
  • TCG: The Total Cost of Gaming by Sandy Antunes, 10oct02
  • Game Publishing & The Law by Sandy Antunes, 06sep02
  • Standing on the Shoulders of Giants by Sandy Antunes, 01aug02
  • Buying Time by Sandy Antunes, 04jul02
  • April 10, 2002 13 New FAQs
  • March 1, 2002 Give Me A Closet
  • January 2, 2002 Let's Go Shopping?!?
  • December 13, 2001 Conflict, Ethics, Winning, and Money
  • November 13, 2001 Secret RPGnet Operations Document Leaked!
  • October 16, 2001 Leadership and D&D
  • September 4, 2001 Leading Industry Site Reports Secret: Sex Sells!
  • August 7, 2001 Any, Anyone Can Be an Internet Success-- Why Aren't You?
  • July 3, 2001 Fine Print, Part U
  • June 5, 2001 Fine Print, Part I
  • May 8, 2001 Pushing Limits
  • May 4, 2001 RPGnet State of the Union special feature
  • April 6, 2001 The Other Magic: Niche Hobbies and Other Markets
  • May 9, 2000 Running a Business as an Old Style D&D Party
  • April 14, 2000 First to Market
  • March 20, 2000 Labor Pains
  • February 15, 2000 One Trick Pony
  • January 6, 2000 Creativity is Bad, Hard to Sell, and Great for Business
  • December 14, 1999 Oranges versus Bananas: Entertainment Costs
  • November 2, 1999 Why Editors Lie
  • October 5, 1999 How to publish a quality game, accept criticism gracefully, and lead a happy life: Pick Any Two
  • September 7, 1999 It Takes a Village (to publish an RPG)
  • August 3, 1999 All Gamer Money Isn't Equal
  • July 6, 1999 Tides of Cash Flow
  • June 1, 1999 Ad-itudes
  • May 4, 1999 Who, What, Give me a Guiness
  • April 6, 1999 The GAMA Trade Show '99
  • March 2, 1999 Roleplaying would have saved Millions
  • February 2, 1999 Games That Won't Suck
  • January 5, 1999 Dangerous Games
  • December 1, 1998 Making Gamers the Old Fashioned Way
  • November 3, 1998 The $1K Company
  • October 1, 1998 So You Want to Start Your Own Company...
  • September 1, 1998 Holy Grails and Marching Morons
  • August 4, 1998 Gamers Must Die!
  • July 7, 1998 Profit versus Prophet
  • June 2, 1998 Acquire! Acquire!
  • May 5, 1998 Power
  • April 21, 1998 The GAMA Trade Show Report, Part 2 (eventually)
  • April 7, 1998 Schroedinger Games, or, the GAMA Report
  • March 3, 1998 Culling the Herd
  • February 3, 1998 Horatio Hornblower's RPG Company
  • January 6, 1998 Double Feature (Us and Them/A Clash of Images)
  • December 2, 1997 "How to Scam Games for Free"
  • November 4, 1997 "Women in Gaming?"
  • October 2, 1997 "Fear of a Gaming Planet" (Welcome to the RPG ghetto?)
  • September 2, 1997 "Rush" (fame and adoration in lieu of pay)
  • August 2, 1997 "For the Money" (convention mating rituals)
  • July 2, 1997 "Good Deeds" (the dearth of evil game companies)
  • June 2, 1997 "Dirty Laundry" (copyright and slander on the net)
  • May 2, 1997 "Communications Breakdown" (company and player schisms)
  • April 2, 1997 "The Quick and the Dead" (dying companies versus new ideas)
  • March 2, 1997 "It's All in the Timing" (on hype and late deliveries, and on genres)
  • February 2, 1997 "Insiders and Outsiders" (who's who and who uses the web)
  • January 2, 1997 "Fits and Starts" (web presences, print runs, live roleplaying)
  • December 2, 1996 "Procastination Season is Over" (delays and new products)
  • November 1, 1996 "Best of Times, Worst of Times" (on rumors, survival, and larps)
  • October 1, 1996 "Post-Con fallout and not that many new games"
  • September 1, 1996 "Our launch, news from GenCon, demos, new LARPS"
  • Our reason for existence

    Other columns at RPGnet

    TQo0~^DҒt< ek&Ǿ$\۵ZFȃuwݝIŃU QYir2HR2.u3MFoعq]4#A`pP5(b& )b)ⰾp7(i<[-2gL#5[f g?*rVGf8*)s'+20ϟ̑F}KB<7wSL\gbvm9WiRބYŜvd y0'p2I_Fc2>#o A )VL[Qk?3`)<У[(*W.JH ?tXCt谙 X:@ \0w ~LqĤE-rFkYœj4q 5AQ6[AxG [>w|?( fХθY䝛$c=_qNĦoǸ>O_|&/_Mi7"宥CЧk0dӷLh;TmuCGU-!Ul{ h<\bQX.~"O2*yPcz!ŠGg